Christmas – The hardest day of the year (2/2)

Dear sufferers

I know you’re scared right now. I know the anxiety of Christmas feels like a knot in your stomach. I know you wish with all your heart that you could be normal. I know you wish you could eat freely and laugh properly. I know you wish you could tell everyone how incredible your year has been. I know you wish your biggest achievement of the year wasn’t that you’re still here. Whatever your diagnosis. I know you wish it didn’t have to come to Christmas with you.

But you’re not alone and I’m so proud of you. You are a warrior. It might feel impossible, but you can get through it. Eat what you can. Challenge yourself if you feel able and try to distract yourself with the conversation. You may even be able to enjoy it. But if you don’t that’s ok too. No one is judging you. You have an illness and that’s not your fault. Just know that there are people that care. There are helplines you can call. There are friends that will listen.

I’m so sorry you feel the way you do – but it won’t be like this forever. I promise. Deep breaths. It’s going to be tough – but I have so much faith in you. One day Christmas will feel easier, and maybe you’re not there yet. And that’s ok. Your feelings are valid. And never punish yourself for feeling the way you do. Do your best, and that’s all anyone can ask of you.

I’m wishing you all a very happy and healthy Christmas and I hope the New Year will bring beautiful things and new adventures.

All my love and take care guys

Jenny

xx

Christmas – It’s just one day after all. Why can’t they just try for one day? (1/2)

I want to do a personal post at some point, but today I want to talk about Christmas.

Mental illness does not take a break during the festive period. And as much as we would love a break, unfortunately we do not get one.

The first of two posts will be a letter to non sufferers of Mental illness.

Dear non sufferers

I know you find it hard. I know you don’t understand why your loved one cannot be happy and relax with everyone else at Christmas.

It’s just one day after all. Why can’t they just try for one day?

If they have an eating disorder you think – why can’t they just eat normally today? A few roast potatoes can’t hurt. A mince pie with coffee – what’s so hard about that? Why do they have to be so quiet when eating Christmas dinner? It’s making it so awkward. Why are they staring at that plate as if it’s poison? Do they not realise they’re making everyone feel uncomfortable? Why can’t they just pull crackers and read out daft jokes? Even after dinner it feels like they’re not there. No smiles. Or if there are – you can tell it’s forced. You think about how today is such a special day. Why are they being so selfish? Why are they being so dramatic?

It’s just one day after all. Why can’t they just try for one day?

If they have depression you think – why can’t they just be happy today? It’s just one day. Can’t they just smile their way through one day? Can’t they just be normal for one day? Why do they have to look so sad? Why are they mumbling their words and staring at their hands? Why are they just picking at their food? Don’t they realise how rude that is? You ask about how their year has been. But why are they deflecting and avoiding the question? You know it’s been hard for them – but there must have been some good things? They look so close to tears. But why? There haven’t been any arguments. There’s no reason for them to cry. Why are they trying to ruin this day for everyone?

It’s just one day after all. Why can’t they just try for one day?

I know it’s tough having Christmas with a loved one who suffers from mental illness – but remember it’s not their fault.

Eating disorders are not a choice. And the pressure of Christmas exacerbates everything. While children everywhere are fighting sleep so they can catch Santa leaving their stocking – we’re kept up at night with the anxiety of the following day. Watching everyone tucking into the food with smiles and laughter makes us feel so alone. No one else at the table is dreading the consequences of the days intake. And that’s how we see it. An intake. It’s not simply food to us. It’s a calculated energy consumption. It’s a fight to the death on Christmas. The desperation to join in the fun v the desperation to stick to our safe foods. Because even if we manage dinner – there is the monumental guilt to deal with. And that guilt will be what plagues us for the rest of the day. Making it through dinner is an achievement, yes, but it won’t make us happy. It will leave us exhausted and drain all our energy for the rest of the day. But please be understanding. We are trying. And we’re trying because we don’t want to ruin it for everyone else. We’re trying because we don’t want to be selfish.

Depression doesn’t take a break at Christmas. Depression makes you feel lonely even when there are people around you. Being surrounded by happy faces when on the inside you’re in so much pain is isolating. Sometimes we have very little to show for the previous year, so questions about how we’ve been are so difficult to answer. Our self esteem is so low that we don’t know how to tell you about our achievements because we don’t see it like that. And sometimes our achievement is simply being alive. But that’s not the sort of thing you can bring up at the dinner table. Sometimes the anxiety can become too much and we want to be alone for a bit. Sometimes we feel like crying because all we can think about is how utterly useless we feel.

Please be understanding at Christmas.

It’s not just one day for us. It is the hardest day of the year.

Thanks for reading and take care guys

xx

Closing one Chapter and Opening the Next

“Growth is painful, change is painful but nothing is as painful as being stuck somewhere you don’t belong”

Well I’m going to jump straight in and start with a positive. Things are looking up. Having just re-read my last blog post, I am a bit in shock and upset remembering how bad of a place I was in. I was discharged from that admission a week later and I am currently *drum roll* 3 months psychiatric hospital free and I am genuinely really proud. It hasn’t been easy at all. I went on holiday in June/July to Colombia to visit my mother’s family. We normally go every 2 years but I’d missed a holiday meaning I hadn’t been in 4 years.

Making the decision to go on this holiday was very hard. I adore my family, but I had many things to weigh up: the length of the holiday and how I would cope without professional input, the reactions of my family who would more than likely comment on how different I looked (this is in relation to weight – I’m a much higher weight than 4 years go) and the general anxiety of massive gatherings and so many people around me constantly. But I decide to go. I realised that my fears were trumped by the desire to see a huge family that loves me unconditionally. My cousins are growing up far too fast and I don’t want to miss out on that any more than I have to.

So I went and it was a success. It wasn’t without it’s challenges, but most of that was down to my own insecurities as opposed to anything done or said on their part. I have now been back from my holiday about a month and we are now about midway through August.

Right so here is the news I promised – I have decided to return to University in a last fierce attempt to compete my degree. I will go back to where I left of which is 2nd Semester of 3rd year. After that I will have one more year to do and finally be finished. It’s been a hard decision for me. Those of you who have followed this blog for a long time (and thank you so much) will know that I tried going back in 2017 and it didn’t end well. And having had time to reflect on that, I now see that in order to devote my time to becoming “student” Jenny, I have to let go of “ill” Jenny. As the two simply aren’t compatible for me.

I’m not saying that come January I won’t be mentally ill. I’m saying that come January I will *hopefully* not be cutting to the point of having to spend 4 hours at a&e for stitches or doing anything that may result in a hospital admission – sectioned or voluntary. I know I’ll slip up. I don’t do what I do, think what I think or feel how I feel out of choice. If it was a choice I’d just stop and everything would be great. But in the next 4 months I’m putting everything I’ve got into finding healthy ways to cope that work for me.

I finally feel ready to close this very long chapter of my life, but I won’t be forgetting it. I don’t want to dismiss or be embarrassed about what I’ve been through. I am proud of being a survivor and for fighting even when I was so close to dying. I just need to find a purpose that will keep me going and hopefully this will be the motivation I need.

People say I’m putting too much pressure on myself. But I know myself better than anyone else (funny that) and I know I need that pressure and determination to thrive. I recognise that if this doesn’t work out for whatever reason it will probably break me and it will be hard to get through. I am terrified of having a repeat of 2017 so I understand the concern. But the closest and most supportive people in my life know how important this is to me. Getting a law degree is something I’ve wanted to do ever since I did work experience with my dads cousin in a Magistrates Court 12 years ago. They know it’s not a question of “just try and if it doesn’t work it’s fine”. There is nothing else I want to do more than this. They understand how important it is for me, not only as an academic achievement but a personal one too. And instead of shrugging and saying “if you can’t do it take a night class” they say “great that’s so amazing, how can I help?”. And there is the difference.

So I guess what I’m saying is, before I was too scared to close this chapter of my life. There have been times I’ve turned the page and tried to get into the next chapter and then immediately turned back. I didn’t know how to become the person I was before I became ill, but now I know it’s never about trying to be the person you were. It’s about discovering the person you are now – without the labels. Of course I’ll have changed since I first became ill at 14. But also since becoming an adult – I don’t expect anyone who is soon to be 25 is the same person they were at 18.

As humans we are constantly learning, developing and changing. It can be something as simple as finding a new favourite food. Or more transient things like realising who our true friends are. Or falling in love. Or discovering a hidden talent. Or finding a new hobby. You get where I’m headed. For me to try and find that lost and hurt 14 year old girl would be fruitless. She doesn’t exist any more. Neither does the scared and tormented 18 year old girl. Or the 21 year old anorexic. These are versions of me, yes, and I have carried almost all of the same *core* personality traits that I’ve had since birth with me. But I’m a different person now. Every experience I have had up until this day has shaped me into who I am today. And trying to find a way back to even me a year ago would, in my opinion, be impossible.

Now we’re getting into dangerously philosophical waters here about what makes you “you” and the idea that existence precedes essence, so on a side note if you’re interested – Sartre in particular has various books and papers on his theory of existentialism.

Okay so as usual a very long post. It has been a bit rocky adjusting to being home after 3 weeks away, but as soon as it was confirmed I would be returning to University my whole outlook changed and I realised that in order to accomplish my goals I was going to have to let go of the life I have now – where despite the relief I get from harming myself or the safety I feel from having professionals to talk to to, it is not what I want for myself. I owe it to the 13 year old me who decided she wanted to be a lawyer to at least try and make that happen. Maybe I’m finally in a place where I know I deserve a chance to feel worthy, good and happy about myself.

Wow, so I was really planning on not making a big deal out of University for fear of having to come back on here and reveal that I haven’t managed yet again. And also because all my peers are currently doing PHDs, Masters or are a couple of years into their chosen career paths.

We always hear “everyone’s paths look different” and that’s true except what about when most of the people you know of your age paths look very similar? That can make you feel so alienated. Everyone says Instagram and Facebook paint a rose tinted and very selective picture of peoples lives – which is true but those things they post about did actually happen and those achievements are real, so it’s not all made up.

My advice is different. There is nothing wrong with seeing and liking and commenting on people’s posts. Congratulate them on getting married, having a child or getting a promotion. Personally, I believe self acceptance is the key here. When you’re at peace with yourself you stop feeling the need to compare yourself to others. It is amazing when something good happens to a friend or family member and having the ability to enjoy that with them without comparisons, jealousy or resentment is an incredible skill. I don’t know how to not feel alienated but I do know this much. Life is too short to spend it telling yourself you’re not good enough. You are good enough. You have always been good enough. And you will continue to be good enough until you die. Because at no point will you or have you ever been worthless. And that is something I can hand on heart promise you.

Take care guys

Xx

Psychiatric Hospitals – patient kindness

Things I’ve seen…

On the night before my 21st birthday I saw a group of patients stand in the garden (in November) and wait until 12.01 to sing Happy Birthday to me. They had bought me flowers.

I’ve seen a girl buy another girl a teddy because she said she had left hers at home.

I’ve seen guys watching football together and girls getting frustrated because they wanted to watch the bake off final. So they agreed, one ward would watch bake off and the other the football.

On my first night in an adult psychiatric ward I saw all the women in my dorm hold me and stand around me until I stopped crying.

I’ve seen a patient take another patient to the shop because, although she was allowed out, she was too scared to go on her own.

The day I decided to try and eat after a long period of having nothing, I saw 2 girls decide between them who would hold my hand and who would wipe my tears.

I’ve seen notes of encouragement and letters being left on peoples beds.

I’ve seen a girl come back from pass with emergency moustaches (yes you read that correctly).

I’ve seen people of all ages – from teenagers to men and women in their 60s sitting outside together drinking tea, listening to music and bitching about how the old doctor we hated was better than the new one that we now hated more.

I’ve seen girls braiding each other’s hair and doing each other’s nails.

I’ve seen people telling others when they should ask for help – or getting help for them. We don’t want anyone getting hurt.

Yes psych wards can be loud when people are unwell and it can be unsettling and it can be scary – but usually we just feel bad for the person in distress.

Some of my closest friends are people I’ve met through my admissions and mental illness.

And in the words of Harry Potter…

“There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other”

And I think that knocking out a 12 foot mountain troll is just as hard as trying to recover from any Mental Illness.

A Long Overdue Update

“You have the power to say ‘this is not how my story will end’”

Hello everyone,

So yet again I have to apologise for my considerably long absence. Things have been incredibly hectic and despite thinking to myself at least twice a week that I need to write a post, I either haven’t had the time or I have not had the energy.

I think my last blog post was “A day in the life of an Anorexic” back in January 2019. I hope you found it both informative and interesting.

This blog post is probably going to be a bit of a mess structure wise and definitely all over the place. I want to do an update so I will briefly go into the events of last year and then continue on from there to now. I will try and keep this as short and as concise as possible, but then again we all know how long my blog posts end up being!

I actually don’t think I have written a personal post for a long time. And I’m not going to trail all the way through to 2017 as it isn’t really necessary and has little effect on the here and now. But I will say this, I ended 2017 in a pretty good place. It had been a very up and down year with my self-harm but I was in supported accommodation and any admissions I had to general or psychiatric hospitals were brief. A few times my self-harm got so bad I needed blood transfusions and there were some very close calls when I was in serious danger. At times I wasn’t sure whether my supported accommodation would take me back due to my risk. However, looking on the year as a whole, it wasn’t one of my worst years. I entered 2018 pretty happy and despite having to drop out of university again, I had come to terms with the fact that I probably wasn’t ready. In 2017 I went on holiday to Majorca and had a road trip around England with my father. I was in therapy and fighting hard to get better.

2018

Predictably, in January 2018 I ended up back in hospital for what was going to be a very long 8 months. I say predictably because there seems to be a trend that my Mental Health plummets after New Year and tends to result in an admission to a psychiatric ward (there are reasons for this involving trauma). The basis for detaining me was due to the severity and increase frequency of my self-harm. I was needing blood transfusions more and more and staff were regularly phoning ambulances and finding me in my room which they said “looked like a murder scene”. Yet I must say this, for support workers that were not trained as medical professionals, they were incredible. They kept calm and rational despite the knowledge that this could be the time I might not make it. The reason for such a lengthy admission was not because I constantly proved to be high risk, but because my supported accommodation had decide that they could not take me back. And I did not blame them in the slightest. I was upset and angry, but only with myself.

Naturally this created a problem. Where would I live now? Ideas were thrown around like frisbies and no-one had the faintest idea what was going to happen. One moment I was going into another supported accommodation, next I was going to a long term rehabilitation ward after that I was going to live independently. So after months of debate it was decided I would live alone and be closely monitored. By this point I was allowed to leave the ward for full days at a time as well as having overnight passes back to my parents’ home in Edinburgh. I was singing in my choir and going to groups. I was even allowed to go on holiday abroad for ten days and come back. Effectively I was living independently, I just had to go back to the ward at night. By the time October came I was so excited for discharge. I felt confident in my ability to function in the community. I moved into my flat and all seemed well. But that week was incredibly difficult. I guess this is because, despite barely being on the ward in the weeks prior to my discharge, staying in the ward I had the comfort of knowing there were people to help me through the night. But on my own, I had no-one. The next few months from October through to December were pretty stable. Of course things weren’t perfect, but whose life is? But I was coping well. I had a truly lovely Christmas and saw in the New Year with some of my closest and most supportive friends.

2019

I started the year in a good place. I had finally got all my old belongings into my new flat and I was starting to really enjoy my freedom. Against the odds (including getting through the festive period) I managed all the way to March doing group therapy and, for the most part, staying out of hospitals.

But from the beginning of February I had started to experience severe dissociative symptoms. I have always suffered with dissociation to some degree. It used to primarily be de-realisation – where I felt the world around me was fake and I did not exist. I would wander slowly through streets and stare at every person feeling so disconnected that it was like watching a film I wasn’t in. I often turned to self-harm by cutting or overdosing just to feel alive or “more real”. I was losing time more and more often which was something that had only rarely happened previously. I had gaps in my memory and would often end up in dangerous situations without knowing what I was doing or where I was. During March and April things didn’t improve. I decided I wasn’t stable enough for therapy and began to hurt myself more often. I would overdose and not tell anyone. I would cut and not get stitches. Most of the time I was hurting myself I had dissociated and it took a while for me to “come to” and realise what I had done. I was so scared. Particularly because I now knew what I was capable of.

This fear of being out of control coupled with the feeling that no-one had any answers to my memory gaps or any suggestions of how to manage it led me to decide to take matters into my own hands and attempt suicide. It was a very bad incident and the fact I survived was sheer luck. I was discharged into the care of my father who was staying with me at the time, but the next day he felt he could not cope and asked me to go into hospital. So against every bone in my body and every thought in my head I agreed.

And this is where we are now. I find myself, yet again, in a psychiatric ward completely confused as to what to do. I am not used to voluntary admissions and I am desperate to discharge myself. I know hospital does not help me and they are limited in what they can offer me. I feel we have hit a dead end with treatment options and we are going to fall into symptom management. I now have an intense fear of my own thoughts. They are very overpowering and controlling which leaves me feeling powerless. So I am not in a very good headspace at the moment.

As I suspected this post has been incredibly long and detailed and I apologise for that. It is probably not very coherent or easy to read. So I hope you can forgive me.

Despite my situation, I want you all to know that I have not given up. I am trying to hang in there and I hope that you all are too.

I would also like to ask if there are any topics you would like me to cover. If you have any ideas please comment below and I’ll see what I can do.

Take care guys

xx

A day in the life of an Anorexic

*Trigger Warning for all Eating Disorders. Contains details of behaviours and numbers. Please DO NOT read if you are struggling or feel you are in a position where you may be triggered*

“Beauty is not measured in pounds”

I wake up and check the clock. 4am. Urgh. Still so early. I toss and turn and spend the next 3 hours slipping in and out of sleep. My mind is full of numbers and planning and exercise. 7am. Ok. Time to move. God its cold. Why is my room so cold? Come on Jenny. MOVE. I force myself out of bed and go straight to the bathroom. I stare at the scale knowing the number will determine the course of the day. Taking a deep breath I step on fighting the urge to jump off and run forever in the opposite direction. No. I deserve to feel this pain. The numbers move rapidly and finally settle. Damn. Same as yesterday. Still fat.

I jump in the shower and avoid even glancing at my disgusting fat covered self in the mirror. I am always conscious of every atom in my body. I can feel the soft rolls of skin fat on my stomach fall on top of each other as I bend down to pick up my shampoo. It makes me want to cut it off. I see my thighs, thick and wide as I scrub the badness away. I wrap a towel round me and run to my bedroom. I put on my make-up and dry my hair in a desperate bid to look less ugly. Now for the hard bit. Getting dressed in the morning is always the most traumatising experience. I settle for leggings and an oversized jumper. It makes me feel smaller. And hides the feeling of my forever expanding body.

I walk into the kitchen. I stare around. I don’t know what I like. I don’t know what I want. But I do know I do not like lingering in kitchens – its dangerous territory. What if I lose control and eat everything? I pick up an apple and eat it slowly savouring every last bite. I finish and I know I want more. I want toast with melted butter. I want eggs and bacon. I want waffles and pancakes and cereal. But instead I shiver as I clutch my black coffee.

I go about my day. It revolves solely around food and exercise – calories in v calories out. Every calorie is counted with meticulous precision. Every step taken counts. The aim – a serious calorie deficit. I walk/run all morning until I feel physically sick but I still cannot allow myself to stop. That would be weak. That would be wrong. That would be bad. So I stagger home, forcing myself to use the stairs because every tiny bit of exercise I do is crucial.

Its lunch time. I watch others unpack sandwiches, crips, chocolate, yoghurts and every other forbidden food wherever I happen to be (School, Uni or Work). The list of bad foods gets longer every single day. What started off as cutting out a few ‘unhealthy’ snacks years ago rapidly snowballed into a list that turned out not to be of what I couldn’t eat but of only those things I could eat. My lunch? A 70 calorie cereal bar. I kid myself i’m not jealous. I lie and tell myself I’m strong for resisting the temptation to eat normally. In a desperate bid to distract myself from the pain of an empty stomach, I drink copious amounts of Diet Coke. I remember someone once recommending that I try a flavoured Diet Coke. My head screamed NO! Not because I thought I wouldn’t like it, but because it was 1 calorie more. Did I not say EVERY calorie counts? Sometimes I allow myself to relax in the evenings but often that time is devoted to studying/working. When I finally go to bed I struggle to fall asleep. I’m mentally and physically exhausted but I can’t sleep. My stomach growls in frustration, my head spins and aches and my exposed bones make lying down in any position horrifically uncomfortable. But in some ways that gives me pleasure. I feel my hip bones sticking out and my concave stomach. I feel my arms and legs with no muscle left. I don’t ever feel beautiful or thin enough but knowing the number is going down calms the voice in my head.

As my body shrinks the bigger I feel. A starved mind does not function normally. I hold my breath around restaurants or take aways because I genuinely think I’ll absorb calories through smelling food. I turn down social events because I cannot cope around the food and the mental energy it takes to hold a conversation that lasts more than 3 minutes is monumental.

I am obsessed by food. I look at recipes or pictures of food online and feel guilty. How dare I even dream of allowing that amount of food to enter my body. It is hard to explain to someone who has no idea the high you get from starving yourself what it is like. I got a kind of twisted satisfaction. It’s also addictive. Oh so addictive. Because Anorexia is clever. It tricked me into believing that I was in control until the last possible moment. The moment when it pulled the rug from under my feet. This is the point of no return.

You see, you don’t just hand in your resignation to Anorexia. Oh no. You have entered into a contract. You can’t just walk away and say ‘thank you very much but I want to live normally now…’ You’re stuck in a very abusive relationship where you cannot leave. This is where all hell breaks loose and the real inner battle and torment starts. In many ways you knew what you were getting yourself into, but you convinced yourself that you could stop at any moment. However, now you want an out and Anorexia is not just going to hand the reigns back over. It has been the mastermind and puppeteer since the beginning.

So now you don’t feel strong when you refuse food. You cry in anger and frustration and sadness. It has gone from choosing not to eat to a desperation to be allowed something, but the physical act of putting food on a fork and chewing and swallowing terrifies you. You are desperate to eat without the guilt. You don’t want to spend every day head bent over the toilet seat bringing up every last thing you ate. You don’t want to spend hours running frantically. And now when the numbers go down there is a feeling of blind panic hidden amongst the satisfaction at reaching another goal weight. You’re scared because you can’t stop and you don’t want to die.

And as each day passes you grow weaker. Your heart and organs are beginning to shut down. You’re dehydrated. You’re tired. You’re hungry. You’re forced to exercise well into the night. You are covered in bruises. Your skin is dry and your nails peel. You have dark shadows under your lifeless eyes framed by a gaunt face you do not recognise anymore. And while the changes in your appearence are scary enough, nothing has changed more than your mind. Anorexia is a leach. It slowly sucks away any hope, happiness or sense of self you have. It is ruthless. It is unforgiving. It is a liar. And it will hit you black and blue until you have no fight left. And while along the way it has slowly but surely taken away your health, your friends, your hobbies it will not rest until it takes away the ultimate thing. Your life.

Anorexia kills 1 in 5 sufferers. Seek help. You cannot fight this alone. You deserve more than an existence, you deserve freedom. And I promise you this – nothing will EVER be enough. There is nothing glamorous or beautifully sad yet romantic about Anorexia. It is ugly. It is dangerous. And it is evil.

Take care guys

xx

Suicide and Depression

“The bravest thing I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die”

Today I want to talk about suicide. I have spoken out a bit on Facebook about my suicide attempts, but I want to explain how and why people get to a point in their lives where they feel they cannot possibly go on.

One of the things I hate most about the stigma surrounding Depression and consequently suicidal ideation is when people take the moral high ground. I do not mean this is a sick or twisted way. What I mean is the fact some people automatically deem it as selfish. They say things like ‘How could they hurt their friends like that?’. ‘Why did they not care about the people they left behind?’.

These people never stop and think about how much pain a person must have been through to get to that stage in their lives. No-one ever stops to consider what the moments before a self inflicted and potentially lethal action are like. Speaking from experience, I can assure you I did not take those pills on a whim and I certainly did not cut my wrists for a laugh. I did not forget about the few people who would have been directly affected by my death. I did not underestimate the hurt I would cause.

So then, naturally, I guess it begs the question why? Why would you choose such a final action, particularly when you are so aware of the hurt you would cause? I cannot answer this question universally (because I could not possibly be naive enough to suggest that everyone’s experiences of severe Depression and subsequent suicidal thinking are the same) but I can attempt to explain how – in the mind of a sick young adult – one can justify such a decision.

Firstly I guess, like anything in life, you have to weigh things up. When you are at rock bottom and feel that nothing will ever get better. As if nothing no-one says or does will EVER make a difference to your life, to how you feel. When you cannot see a future for yourself and the black cloud descends, you create a picture in your head of how the world would look without you. You see the few people in your life that would be affected by your death – mourning you in the short term but you convince yourself that they’ll get over it. That they will soon realise that their lives will be improved without you. You tell yourself that they’ll be ok and that everything will eventually be ‘fixed’ without you there to ruin it. It is incredible how rational you can convince yourself you are being during the run up to perhaps the most irrational decision of your life. Secondly, and I think that this in particular was true for me, people underestimate the lack of self worth people who are suicidal tend to have. They do not see themselves as ‘lovable’, as ‘popular’, as ‘valued’. We feel worthless, a waste of space and most of us are so sick of ourselves we struggle to see how anyone can stand to be with us when we cannot even stand to be with ourselves.

Still not convinced? I ask you to read this. And then tell me that you still cannot possibly understand.

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Imagine a life with no pleasure, no happiness, no light. Nothing good. Everything is bad (or it seems like that). There is no joy. There are no good days and bad days. There are just bad days – and even worse days. Imagine a healthy persons sadness. Multiply that by 1000 then throw in anger, anxiety, guilt and every other negative emotion under the sun. Welcome to the world of Depression. It is a very bleak world. People do not understand why you are so negative. But that is not unusual. People rarely understand you. You see you are unlikable and the majority of people hate you. But you feel like you are a bad person and that you deserve the pain anyway. Besides, you cannot hurt anyone if you are alone. The way you feel affects the few friendships you have left – they try hard but you push them away. You convince yourself that they either feel sorry for you or they feel like they should make an effort. You like them but you are fed up of repeatedly hurting them so you keep your distance. You try and protect them.

Imagine feeling alone even when there are people around you. Imagine spending days in bed because you feel too ugly, too disgusting to be allowed out. Your life consists of appointments, medication and monitoring. Every few days you sit in front of a different professional who half listens while taking notes, nodding their heads and occasionally muttering a few ambiguous comments about what you should try and do. They may even say a few reassuring words, maybe they make some sense and you see a glimmer of hope but then you leave and you realise that they get to go home at the end of the day to their ‘normal’ lives. They don’t think about you. They care because it is their JOB to care. But it is their job to care for those 50 minutes when they must talk to you. After that you become another patient. Another file. Another name. You leave the building and suddenly you are back in this big terrifying world and you are on your own again – who are you kidding you are always on your own. You walk down the street and feel disconnect from every single person that walks past. It is like you are in a bubble or watching a film in slow motion. They are not part of your world. They are in this ‘promised land’. The place everyone keeps promising you exists if you ‘keep fighting’, ‘keep being brave’, ‘keep holding on’. You get the bus and watch everyone wondering what their life is like. You see people your age laughing, smiling, joking and you wonder why that can’t be you. Maybe you spend your evening getting drunk with people you barely know. Maybe you spend them drinking on your own attempting to inject some happiness into your tired soul. Maybe you sleep around simply trying to feel love. To feel good. Maybe you cut yourself in a desperate attempt to feel SOMETHING other than this black, numb pain or to perhaps to distract yourself from the emotional scars that lie embedded even deeper in you than the train-tracks lining your body.

That night you go to bed. God knows what time it is. Days feel like months. Weeks feel like years. You’re exhausted. Physically. Emotionally. Mentally. You wish you were happy. You wish you were better. But you have felt this way for so long you don’t even know what better is. People try and help but no-one knows what living like this is like. You toss and turn desperate to fall asleep because you want to be able to function as a human being when you wake up. It’d be nice to feel alive. You think about taking pills to either end everything or to just knock you out for a while so you don’t have to think. Its 3am and you scroll through the numbers on your phone of people you have been told to call whatever the time, it is for moments just like this. But all you see is names. All you see is people who do not deserve to be bothered by you. None of them deserve this to be put on them. These are good people. Happily sleeping. In any case what can they do? Nothing can save you now. You are past saving. It’s your own fault anyway. People say you are brave. You are sick of being brave. You don’t want to have to be brave. You want to be ok. But that’s not going to happen. No-ones ever asked you what you want. You try to think back to a time where everything was ok. But all you can see is black. You think ahead desperate to see some light at the end of this long tunnel. But nothing is there. It is black too. And you are blind.

Tell me now that you don’t understand why people give up. And tell me now that suicide is selfish.

xx

Mental Illness can kill

“There’s a light at each end of this tunnel, you shout, but you’re just as far in as you’ll ever be out”

Having a mental illness should not be a death sentence. But sadly for many it is. And I must confess that, for me, there have been times when I have wondered whether I would survive my illnesses. I have been told straight to my face that if I continued starving myself I would be dead within weeks. More recently I have been told that I am likely to die from misadventure (i.e. by accident) if I do not stop self-harming behaviours.

It is funny how blind having a mental illness can make you. In the same way a smoker tells themselves that they will not get cancer, I told myself would not die from these illnesses.

As an Anorexic (with a critically low weight and poor bone density) I told myself that it would not be me. was invincible. I could survive like this.was not in danger. It hurts looking back now at just how poorly I was and I feel shock at how I did not realise how dangerous my position had become. I remember sitting in front of my therapist at the time and watching her get emotional because she could see me deteriorating in front of her eyes. But I was not worried. Everyone else was but I didn’t care. As long as I was thin it didn’t matter. I pretended to be blind to all concern. I came down to Edinburgh for my birthday and watched as my mother cried at the sight of me. I vaguely saw peoples looks of worry or glances to each other as I refused food. But it didn’t worry me. I wouldn’t die. However, as I became even deeper absorbed in the disease I began almost wishing it would kill me. When I began to realise that Anorexia was not the comfort blanket I always thought it to be, I hoped It would kill me. I remember thinking it was ok because I wouldn’t die fat. Eventually my doctor stepped in and got me the help I needed, but for those few months where death was coming closer I was completely blinded by my illness. And even when things started to go wrong and I realised I was no longer in control I then wanted to die.

It is easy to see now how Anorexia (and other Eating Disorders) take lives. Whether through complications relating to the Eating Disorder or suicide. Sufferers take their own lives because, like me, they could not see a way out. Or there was no help available. Or they kept getting refused help because services rely on BMI to determine how sick someone suffering is. They forget it is a MENTAL illness and if your weight is not low then there is often not enough funding to treat patients at a healthy weight even if mentally they are struggling.

But having depression can blind you too. It makes you feel awful, worthless and useless. It tears you down and forces you into a pit of despair. You struggle to do the most basic of things due to lack of motivation. Why bother? You are not important enough. Not smart enough. Not good enough. No-one will ever like you and your friends and colleagues are just pretending to like you. The negative thoughts come thick and fast and there is nothing you can do to stop them. That is when the idea of suicide infiltrates your brain. You believe people would be better off without you. You believe you would be doing the world a service if you died. And you believe so intrinsically that you do not belong in this world that death seems like a good option. Depression kills. And is responsible for the majority of male deaths under 50. I have speculated in past posts as to why this is, whether it is stigma or shame. But the truth is it does not really matter as the facts speak for themselves. Sometimes people go to the GP and they are not taken seriously which makes them reluctant to go back. This then means their depression goes untreated and undiagnosed. This is so dangerous and a key factor in why people commit suicide. Early intervention is so important. I was lucky and my GP diagnosed me straight away with depression at 14 and put me on anti-depressants. But others are not so lucky.

My Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder often means that I do not think of the consequences of my actions. Or if I do its because I’m planning something serious. 10% of people with EUPD die through suicide. The self harm which I engage in (which is a symptom of my illness)  has, at times, been life threatening. Some of the overdoses I have taken in order to hurt myself but not necessarily to die have resulted in me being in intensive care or I was in danger of seriously damaging my liver. And then there are the suicide attempts themselves. The reckless behaviour. The taking unnecessary risks. But I am blinded by my impulses. I do not see my behaviours for what they are until after the event. I just do what I feel like doing in the moment and often that is something very self-destructive. And even now when I am being told that I will only survive so many times until I accidentally kill myself, I continue to do it. Because my illness makes me believe that I am the exception. That I will not die. That I will not become a statistic. I know rationally that voice is wrong, but at the moment it doesn’t seem to shut up. But I’m fighting back and trying to reduce the severity of my self harm.

So you see, in all these diseases the mental illness can blind a person to the truth. Whether that be Anorexia, Depression or EUPD. There are, of course, many other Mental Illnesses but I have chosen to focus on these as they are the ones I am familiar with. People do not think it will be them. They convince themselves that, while it might happen to others, it will not happen to them. This is wrong. Anyone can die from an Eating Disorder or serious self harm. And even those who attempt suicide don’t always want to die they just don’t want to live. Yet even a half-hearted suicide attempt can kill. Mental Illnesses are dangerous and we must not forget that. People die from Mental Illnesses and that is the one thing I would like my readers to take away from this rather long winded post.

There should be access to help for EVERYONE no matter of their sex, age, ethnicity, postcode or social standing. And early intervention is key to recovery. A lot of people go to their GP out of desperation only to be told that they are not depressed enough, not anxious enough, not thin enough etc. This does not happen with any physical illnesses. When cancer is found the doctor does not tell you to wait to see if it gets worse before starting treatment. That would be negligence. However, with Mental Illness it seems to be a completely different story.

As always thank you for reading (medal if you got this far)

Take care guys

xx

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2018

“There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore”

So it’s that time of year again. It is #eatingdisorderawarenessweek and this year we are asking the question, #whywait? It is estimated that people wait about 3 years between symptoms developing and getting help. This is ridiculous. No physical illness is treated like this. No-one waits that long for treatment. And there is proof to show that early intervention means people are much more likely to recover. I often wonder how much money the NHS would have saved had they treated me sooner.

When I first started developing symptoms I told my psychiatrist at the time and she did nothing. She watched me deteriorate in front of her eyes. It was not until I was given a new psychiatrist that I was finally diagnosed and even then I had to wait for treatment as I was not deemed ill enough. They waited until things got so bad for me before even attempting to treat me. This is shocking and sadly the case for most suffering from an eating disorder. A lot go undiagnosed and untreated for years before anyone steps in.

Eating Disorders have the highest mortality rate among all Mental Illnesses. They are serious psychiatric diseases that need treatment, and fast. Stepping in sooner would see admissions to psychiatric and general hospitals fall and give sufferers a greater chance of recovery.

It is also important to remember that Eating Disorders and not just about weight. There is so much more too them. Yes, weight loss is often a physical side effect of Anorexia Nervosa, but in other eating disorders weight is often irrelevant. They are often about control and perfectionism. They are about not feeling like you deserve to take up space. They’re about body image and comparing yourself to others. And for me it was about not wanting to grow up and look like a woman.

Eating Disorders are hell and while I am quite far along in recovery I still have my struggles. 10 years on and I still suffer from an Eating Disorder. It took four years for me to be diagnosed. I was 18. Despite having suffered on my own since I was 14. I have now been in recovery for 6 years. It is a long battle, but I know it will be worth it in the end.

If you notice someone struggling around food, excessively exercising or having rules and rituals surrounding food and drink. Be brave. Ask them how they are. Tell them they matter and that they can beat this with the right support. Encourage them to get better because if you are not recovering from your Eating Disorder you are essentially dying. Your body can only take so much – something I learnt the hard way. Physically it can make you very unwell – whether that be from having a low weight, binging, purging, using laxatives to excess or over exercising. So please step in if you see a friend or family member struggling. I promise they will thank you for it.

And that concludes my essay on Eating Disorders. Thank you for reading this and I hope I have helped spread awareness of what are seriously misunderstood psychiatric conditions. Let us all continue to ask the question #whywait.

Take care guys

xx

Self Injury Awareness Day

“I hurt myself on the outside to kill the thing on the inside”

Today is self injury awareness day and I was not going to post. BUT losing Claire has sparked a fire in me. I am determined even more now to break down barriers surrounding Mental Health and to speak out to end the stigma.

So yes my name is Jenny and I self-harm through cutting. You do not know how hard it is to write those words down. Or even to say ‘I am a self-harmer’ out loud. But I am and have been since I was 14.

I did not really know what it was at first. I did not understand why I was doing this to myself. Punishment, for me, was a big part of why I started as it was also when my Anorexia first started to take over my life. I punished myself for eating. I punished myself for being ‘fat’. I punished myself for being me.

The negative thoughts bombarded me and I felt worthless, useless and a burden to others. It soon became my way of coping with day to day life. It gave me a release. The pain was a distraction from the internal pain I felt inside. It was not long before my friends found out and told a teacher. And it was probably the best thing that could have happened. I finally had someone to confide in and I could talk about my problems or what I was struggling with. It helped. She was by far one of the best teachers I ever had- and I am so happy to say I am still in touch with her today. She has seen me through some very dark places and continues to support me. I am eternally grateful for I do not know what I would have done without her support.

But unfortunately the self-harm continued. It became an addiction. It was soon out of my control. I have stopped for periods of time over the years. But usually when my eating disorder has been fully in control.

In the past few years my self-harm has gone from bad to worse. What started as a few scratches turned into deep cuts frequently requiring medical attention. I have even needed blood transfusions a few times.

HOWEVER, all self-harm should be taken seriously. I was lucky in the sense that the ‘minor’ self-harm I was engaging in at a young age was taken seriously by the school and I was referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). I received help and the school continued to give me on-going support all through my teenage years.

I would have liked to be able to end this by saying I no longer engage in self-harming behaviours. But the truth is I do. However, I do not give into the urges lightly any more. I fight them with all my might. I try my hardest to NOT cut. But when it’s the only coping mechanism you have it’s incredibly hard.

I really wish I never started. I wish I had never made that first cut. My arms are a mess now. And I am ashamed of them. I have to wear long sleeves all the time – even in hot weather. It is uncomfortable. I worry all the time that someone might see them and be disgusted. I’m scared I will be judged.

But I shouldn’t be afraid. I should not feel ashamed. They are a part of me and a part of my story and while I may hate having them and wish for clean arms again I am starting to accept them. Slowly, but surely. In the same way I tell everyone to love their bodies no matter if you have cellulite or stretch marks or any other problem, I want people to not be ashamed of their scars.

I also want people to know that there are many ways a person may self-harm. I personally cut but others burn or insert objects into their bodies.

If you suspect someone to be self-harming please please step in and offer them your support. Listen to them but do not judge. You will likely have no idea what they are going through. Self-harm is an addiction yes but like all addictions it can be overcome. And I have faith that the day will come when I do not feel the need to self-harm anymore and where I am content in myself. One day I want to not feel that deep desire to punish.

I hope I have opened your eyes into why people self-harm – it is not a phase or a trend. It usually comes with Depression, Eating Disorders or Personality Disorders. And is feature of them.

Take care guys

xx

Battling On

“You have survived 100% of your worst days”

Jungling several Mental Illnesses at once was never going to be easy. For me, when my EUPD gets better my Anxiety and Anorexia gets worse. I am so black and white, all or nothing and I struggle, really struggle, to find any shade of grey.

Since leaving hospital I have tried my best to get back into a normal life – to find that grey area where I am successfully in control of my Mental Illnesses. And for the most part I am managing. I have been attending my supported work placement and meeting friends for coffee and drinks. But it has been tough, so tough. I still get days when depression cripples me. When the thoughts of harming myself are so overwhelming that there is nothing I can do but to give in or fight hard against them. I still get days when Anorexia controls me. When every bite kills me and food feels like poison infecting my body and seeping into my cells. I have days where my body image is so bad I cannot bare to shower, let alone get dressed as I feel no-one should have to see me looking like this.  I get days where Anxiety renders me house bound because the world outside is too frighting for me to face on my own.

But above all, I still get days when EUPD is the front runner of them all. When my impulses get too strong for me to control. When my mind races and runs to places that I cannot bare, straight into the dark corners of my mind. Where the images and thoughts that cause me so much pain and upset are replayed over and over again like a video tape stuck on repeat. The same thoughts. The same pictures. The same voices. They taunt and torment me. They take over my my mind and turn me into someone I don’t even recognise.

But in all this I still have hope. I still cling onto that glimmer of light that things can and will get better, get easier. Because without that hope where would I be? Alone. In darkness. With no light to guide me. And in my worst moments I remember the good things I have in my life. I have wonderful friends. Both with and without Mental Illnesses. I have a fantastic family who support me and are fighting with me. I have amazing professionals who do there upmost to help and never give up on me. They pick me up each and every time I fall and we start again and build back up. And I have you. My wonderful readers who bare with me while I ramble on about my struggles and through comments and messages have helped me so much. So thank you.

To those of you suffering from any kind of Mental Illness – don’t give up. Even at your worst times, try and find the light in darkness. There is ALWAYS something to be thankful for.

Take care guys

xx

Trying to Find my Feet

“Rock bottom is good solid ground and a dead end street just a place to turn around.”

So its been a long time since my last blog post. At the beginning of the year things were going OK – I had thrown myself into university and was managing as well as I could have hoped.  However, it did not take long for things to deteriorate and I was back in hospital by the end of February. University was causing me too much stress and as a result I was forced to give it up for yet another year. Things became easier after that. I was ‘coping’. Nothing was perfect but things were going well in terms of my supported accommodation. And that stability continued for a few months. Food wise things were good although I was and still am by no means happy with my body shape or weight.

We are now in June and at the end of May my Mental Health began to worsen for no apparent reason. I was doing fine, then all of a sudden I was not. I guess that is the nature of EUPD. For this reason I was admitted back to hospital for some respite. Although things have steadily gone from bad to worse and I am severely struggling with my mood and thoughts and I do not know what is going on or how long I will have to stay here for. Everything is up in the air at the moment. My supported accommodation are extremely concerned and are unsure if they are able to cope with me. I do not know where to go from here. I do not know how to get better. I do not even know what better is. My head is a mess at the moment. My food intake has suffered as a result of being sectioned and all control being taken away from me.

So things are not great but I am hoping they will improve and I will be allowed back to my supported accommodation, but I just don’t know If that will happen. I feel like I have lost my fight and positive attitude to recovery. I am so tired of this illness. It is draining me and it is taking everything in me not to do something drastic and dangerous. But I am not done yet. I am still here, and still trying to re-gain some of my energy to continue fighting. But just. In this moment. I feel lost.

Take care guys

xx

Back to University I go

 “Work hard for what you want because it won’t come to you without a fight.”

A year ago I was in hospital, a year ago I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act, a year ago I could not keep myself safe, a year ago I was miserable and a year ago I was engulfed by Anorexia. Today I am out of hospital, today I am no longer sectioned, today I can keep myself safe, today I am content and today I am fighting.

Wow, it’s been a quick few weeks. I started back at university after a two year break and it is safe to say it has been a tough two weeks. I went from virtually doing nothing to suddenly being in third year of a Law degree and it has not been an easy adjustment. Going back to university was never going to be easy so I know I am going to have to push myself to stick it out. I will not lie and say the thought of dropping out has not already hit me. The negative thoughts come thick and fast, bombarding me with feelings of unworthiness. But the negative thoughts are just that – thoughts – and I alone have the power to fight them. Fighting the thoughts makes me stronger and I have learnt that I need to believe in myself. I may not be the cleverest in my class or get the highest marks but that is OK. It is OK not to be the best whatever my head tells me.

Being back at university is improving my Mental Health by giving me a focus and an end goal. When I was doing nothing, I had time to wallow in self-pity but now I’m keeping myself busy and it feels so good. I’m trying hard to make this work as I am enjoying my course – it is just a lot more work than I anticipated. I forgot how intense Law is and the amount of reading I have to do is phenomenal. But I am determined to keep going and keep fighting. Unfortunately, the stress of university has meant that my Eating Disorder has tried to worm its way back in again. But I know the warning signs now and I know how to fight back. I point blank refuse to relapse because that road only leads to hospital and I am not going back.

Battling Mental Illness and studying a Law degree is so tough but I know I can and I will do this. I want to make people proud but I also want to make myself proud. I am sick and tired of Mental Illness ruining my life. It is time to take control back and not allow my illnesses to jeopardise this opportunity for me. I refuse to let it beat me. I am stronger than the thoughts in my head. I think I am finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Take care guys

xx

2016 in Review

“You won’t know until you’ve tried”

So it has been a while since my last blog post. If I had one word to sum up the last month it would be “turbulent”.  New Year can be tough. Every year I feel like this is another year of my life that I’ve wasted. Another year of starvation and engaging in bad coping mechanisms. But I do not want to think like that. I could sit here and wallow in self-pity. I could focus on the negative (the countless hospital admissions, my struggle with food and the loss of some of my independence). I could think about all the things that have gone wrong and all the mistakes I have made, but part of recovery is giving yourself credit for what you have achieved. And believe me it is tough. But most things can be turned into positives. The amount of progress I have made this year is something I should be very proud of. And I honestly struggle to write that. A year ago I was in hospital, a year ago I has stopped eating entirely, a year ago I was intent on hurting myself in any way possible.

After I was discharged in the spring of last year I went on holiday with my family and ate out every night. I ate what JENNY wanted not Anorexia. I managed better than I could have hoped and I need to allow myself to realise that. I had such a good time and was able to enjoy myself for the first time in months.

However, after a few difficult weeks, It was suggested that I should move into supported accommodation. This was probably the toughest decision I had to make in 2016. It was hard because I had to decide what was best for me and my health and put that above everything else. Of course I wanted to stay in my flat with my dog, but the reality of the situation was that I was not coping at all. So my social worker and I agreed that we would give it ago and honestly it was the best decision I could have made. Having the support of staff is amazing and I get on well with all of them.

At the end of 2016 I made another hard decision – to go back to university. I decided that I could keep putting it off and waiting until I felt “ready”, but I realised that that time might never come. So I made the choice to go back. And honestly I am terrified. My anxiety is sky high and I am worried about so many elements. But I am trying to be excited about the prospect of returning and I plan on enjoying myself to fullest. I am worried about whether I will be able to stay well and get through it, but as my psychotherapist says “you won’t know until I’ve tired”. I am nervous about meeting new people and trying to make new friends. But I am hoping it will be ok and that everyone will be friendly. I am also scared of failing and letting everyone down but I do have resources in place to help me through my studies.

2016 has not been an easy year for me. There have been a lot of changes and a lot of ups and downs but focusing on the moment is important. And right now I am keeping myself afloat, reaching out when I am struggling and preparing myself for the next chapter of my life.

I wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year.

Take care guys

xx

Friendship is the Greatest Gift

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Through my journey with mental illness I have met some amazing people. It may be hard to believe that you could ever make friends for life in a psychiatric hospital. But I have. These are girls that have supported me through the darkest of times. Who have laughed with me until I’ve cried. Who have seen me at my very worst and held me while I have been distraught. They have been with me through a journey that some of you can only imagine. It is one filled with pain, torture and anguish. Yet in those dark times we have smiled and held each other’s hand as we have made our way through the storm. They have picked me up each time I have fallen. They have dusted me off, collected the pieces and helped me put myself back together. And I have done the same for them. I have held them while they have cried. Talked to them for hours. And convinced them to keep fighting. We have had to be so strong. We have had to fight so hard, but we made it through.

While inpatient we wound up the nurses, shared take aways and watched films. We tried to make the most of a bad situation. So we found ways to have fun. One girl and I bought plastic bows and arrows and spent the day shooting at the nurses. We also bought plastic swords and played in the garden.

Friends can be found in the most unlikely of places. True friends stick by each other through the good and the bad. I am lucky that I have met some of the most genuine, kind, caring and lovely people through Mental Illness. They are my rocks. I know I can always count on them. They have carried me through some dark places and I will always be eternally grateful.

However there are others who, while not suffering from Mental Illnesses, have been with me through everything. I have the most understanding and compassionate school and university friends. They have never once judged me or been put off by my Illnesses. They have done a fantastic job supporting me in any way they can. If I have needed help, they have been there. If I have needed a shoulder to cry on they have been there too. And if I just needed a night out to get away from everything they have done that too. I am incredibly lucky to have such fabulous friends.

But sadly many people suffering from Mental Illness do not have that luxury. Many have no-one and have to suffer in silence. Others feel unable to open up and talk to those closest to them. It is sad that anyone would be in that situation. The first step is trust. If you are struggling, opening up to someone you trust might really help. People can be amazing and with a good support network recovery from Mental Illness is possible.

xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picking Myself Back Up Again

“The best way out is always through”

Relapses happen. If anything, that is what I have learnt from living with Mental Illnesses. I am currently struggling. My EUPD feels like the worst it has ever been and all I can do is to keep treading water. Depression is overwhelming me. And I feel like I am trapped behind a glass wall in darkness with the promise of happiness on the other side. And I am willing the glass to shatter so I can feel a fraction of the joy and hope that lies before me. But no matter how hard I hit it, no matter how hard I try to push, the glass will not give. I am backed in a corner, crippled in anguish as I watch the world I so long to be part of, yet find so difficult to comprehend, pass me by, Maybe they just do not take broken people, or those tarnished with badness. Maybe they do not accept people who are empty and have nothing left to give. Or who have lost themselves so entirely that they no longer know who they are. I feel like I am in the pit of despair. But I must keep going. I must keep looking forwards as I know I have reached better places before and I can do so again. Yet in these times of darkness it can be hard to see the light. I feel like I have been ill for so long that I no longer know what being well is like. I don’t know what it is like to not be consumed my Illnesses which are the devil in disguise. They do their upmost to kill you until there is nothing of ‘you’ left. EUPD turns me into someone I do not even recognise. I become impulsive, reckless and needy. It is exhausting. And I am tired, oh so very tired of fighting. Christmas and New Year are always a hard time for me. It marks another year of this torment. Another year full of unhelpful behaviours. But they are my safety net. They are my armour. And I am too scared to show myself.

But I will keep fighting. I know recovery is possible and no matter how long it takes I will not give up. No matter how hard, no matter how treacherous the journey is, I believe I can do it and that is what counts.

This weekend has been one of the worst of my life. I had to go back into hospital due to my impulsive and reckless behaviour. I had to be kept safe as I was unable to do so myself. But I am out now and ready to begin the journey back up. I must find the fight in me to continue with my recovery and avoid any more readmissions to hospital. I am determined. I am strong. I am worthy. And I am ready to do whatever it takes to be well again.

Take care guys

xx

Breaking the Cycle

“Fall down seven times…stand up eight”

And I see myself through different glasses than those around me. And my brain plays back images of things I wish I would forget. And my mind is a torture chamber where every day I am bombarded with a continuous flow of criticism. And my brain is planted with seeds of self-loathing. And I do not know what to do with the rush of feelings that hit me like a storm. And I do not know how to do anything except keep picking myself up and trying to brush off the ghosts from the past which have haunted me for so long. But I can never quite free myself from their grasp. And the voice in my ear is so loud it appears to be all I can hear. And it’s words are like poison, spinning threads of lies yet it is all I know and all I can believe. Because I am not strong enough to challenge it, not brave enough to stand up and fight. Yet I know it is the only way out of this destructive cycle I find myself in. Where I am able to keep myself safe only for short periods of time until the next wave of Depression hits and I am propelled back down the spiral right into the mouth of the devil, back into the depths of the darkness.

And I know I need to keep fighting not because I want to, but because I have to. But it is hard when I keep getting better then relapsing back to old unhealthy coping mechanisms. And I am frustrated. And my doctors are frustrated. And I do not know what to do. I do not know how to break out of this circle that is slowly killing me because every time I feel I am doing better I fall back down. Looking back at these past few months, all I can see is a whirl of blurry memories and remember just snippets of past conversations. When I am unwell everything feels like a dream. I make bad decisions and become very impulsive.  Being back in hospital has felt awful. And I have felt as though I had taken five steps forwards and ten steps back. And it feels that with each set back I fall further and I cannot seem to stay well enough to push through the barrier in front of me. It is as though I am up against a brick wall with no tools to knock it down and no way over. And I keep trying to get around it, to push it down, to break it but I just end up feeling exasperated and tired with the whole process. Sometimes it is easier to self-destruct. It is easier to use unhealthy coping mechanisms because there is no place to fall back, there is no room to fall further. You hit rock bottom and you are so used to being there that it becomes familiar. Still horrible. Still frightening. And still debilitating. Yet familiar. And when you are not used to feeling better or feeling happy it can be scary to try. It can be scary to try and push forward because there is always the possibility of relapse. And it is almost better to not try then try and fail again.

However, I am not giving up yet. I will carry on picking myself back up and hope that things eventually run their course and I start to get well and stay well. I am re-starting my psychotherapy which I am hoping and praying will be a valuable aid in my recovery.

To anyone out there struggling – hang in there. Do not be afraid to try and fight your demons. I am living proof that it does not matter how many times you fall there is always, always a way to start fighting your way back up again.

Take care guys

xx

 

 

What it’s Like Living on an Inpatient Ward

“Have i gone mad? I’m afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usualy are.”

“Medication time ladies” are the first words I hear as I wake. It is 8am.  I get myself up – still half asleep – and drowsily make my way to the small queue of patients waiting in line for their daily ‘awake’ drugs. As I move further up the queue and become more alert I wonder, as I usually do, why they bother to get us up so early. It just makes our days longer and the empty hours ahead until bedtime more daunting. I reach the front of the queue and am presented with my tablets. Vitamins to repair my body from the destruction Anorexia has put it through. An anti-depressant to make me happy. And an antipsychotic to help with my impulses. I down them in one. That is one thing I am good at now – taking tablets. I retreat to my bed space and draw the curtains around and am now faced with the daily decision of what to wear. I go for something comfy, after all, it is not as if I am going anywhere.

The day ahead is boring to say the least. It consists of doctors, nurses and social workers all wanting to review how I am. If I am lucky an Occupational Therapist might turn up and take me to the art room, but that is pretty rare. The activities nurse, however, does come twice a week. Other than that, there are set meal times where we are presented with the NHS’s finest. Visitors are allowed any time except meal times and after 9 which is good as my parents visit most weekends.  In between meals I just relax in my bed space, watching Netflix or play pool with some of the other patients. At 9pm we get our daily ‘asleep’ drugs and are encouraged to go to bed soon after. I don’t complain, anything to make the day finish sooner.

My observation status dictates the level of freedom I have. If I am on constant observations I must have a nurse with me everywhere I go EVEN to the bathroom. Being on constant is horrible, they watch you sleep, eat and wash. There is no privacy whatsoever and you have to sleep with the light on. They also have special observations which means a nurse must be within arm’s reach of you at all times. This is horrendous as you cannot move without your shadow (aka nurse) moving as well. The next step down is general/escort observations. This means you can walk around the ward freely but you must have someone accompany you if you wish to leave. Finally, there is general observations where you can come and go as you please.

Looking back I can safely say that being in a psychiatric hospital is not even remotely fun it is simply boring – nothing much happens except for the odd patient kicking off. Some patients are voluntary and some, like me, were sectioned. Being sectioned is tough but now that I am better I know that they did it in my best interest and to keep me safe. Although at the time I was furious with them and distraught over the fact they were keeping me against my will.

Not all is bad though and I have made some of my best friends in hospital and goodness me we have had some laughs. You also meet some interesting characters, as well as some people that can be quite intimidating. But at the end of the day it is just a hospital like any other where fundamentally people are there to get better.

And that is it. I hope I have allowed people who were curious some insight into what it is like living on an inpatient ward and maybe put to bed some myths that psychiatric hospitals are basically asylms with ‘mental’ people running amock. I have met some of the most genuine, kind, caring and NORMAL people on psychiatric wards and just like me, they are not crazy just a little unwell.

Take care guys

xx

 

 

Living with Mental Illness

“Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of but stigma and bias shame us all”

I have suffered from various Mental Illnesses for 8 years. Living with Mental Illness is tough and it is an on-going battle. You can feel like you are making progress and then relapse without warning. It is unpredictable. It is confusing. It is complex. And ultimately It can be soul destroying. I can safely say that I would not wish a Mental Illness on anyone.

Admitting you are ill and are worthy of treatment is the first step to fighting a Mental Illness. However, for a lot of suffers this can be the hardest part. You see fear surrounds Mental Illness. The fear from suffers of being judged and the fear from others of these illnesses which seem so abnormal . There is also a lot of stigma surrounding Mental Illness. So much so that many suffers feel embarrassed. It is not like a physical illness towards which people are more accepting. It is seen as a weakness, a shameful thing that should be hidden and not spoken about.

The next step is finding the right treatment. This can be tricky as there are so many medications out there that it can take time to find the right one. If you need therapy there are long waiting lists. All these factors play a part in making Mental Illnesses incredibly hard to overcome.

The final step is recovery. Recovery from any Mental Illness is tough. And unlike many Physical Illnesses it can span decades. The hardest part for me was finding it in me to fight. It felt as though my mind had waged war on itself. I was suffering, and a huge part of me wanted to give up and let it kill me.

Eating Disorders have the highest mortality rate of all Mental Illnesses. I have suffered from an Eating Disorder since I was 14 and around the same time I was diagnosed with Depression.  At a young age I was having to deal with illnesses that many adults find difficult to cope with. As with many people suffering from Eating Disorders, I had to wait a long time before I could receive treatment. I was always either not underweight enough, not in the right place, or doing different kinds of therapy. It is outrageous that suffers have to wait until they reach critically low BMIs to receive help. Living with Anorexia Nervosa is awful. It has been a long and distressing fight for me with many relapses. Having to face your fears on a daily basis is exhausting and sometimes it can feel like you are getting nowhere. Depression is debilitating. It can make you feel unworthy, unloved and uncared for. It drags you down into the pit of despair and all you can do is to try and stay afloat. It is a horrible illness that has left me, at times, feeling suicidal.

When i was 18 I was diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder. Since then I have been in and out of hospital usually sectioned under the Mental Health Act. EUPD is like riding the biggest wave of emotion. You can feel everything, yet nothing, Love everybody, but hate them. Care about yourself, yet not care at all. It has led me to self harm and to overdose. It has a massive impact on my life, but I am not crazy. Aside from my Mental Illnesses I am pretty ordinary. I am currently studying Law at university and enjoy writing in my spare time.

Living in a society that sees Mental Illness as a taboo is incredibly difficult and it is only recently that I have begun to open up and share my story with family and friends. Sharing my story has really helped me during my recovery and I would encourage others to do the same. It allows me to see how far I have come and how much I have to live for. It has helped me gain confidence and courage. It also gives me a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. I feel like I am doing my bit to spread the word and reduce the stigma surrounding Mental Illness.

To anyone out there struggling, you are not alone. Please seek help. You are worthy and deserving of treatment. I may have a long way to go in my recovery but I have come a long way from where I was and I could not have done that without the care and help of services. I hope I have allowed people to gage some insight into what it is like to live with Mental Illness and I hope that I have helped spread the word that Mental Illness is not something that should be feared but something that should be accepted in todays society. I am not defined by my illnesses. I am me.

Take care guys

xx

Moving Forwards

“Writing is like talking to yourself”

Wow. It’s been a good few months since I last wrote a blog post. The truth is I had not been managing well. August and September were months from hell. My EUPD was out of control, my Depression was debilitating and I was struggling to stay afloat. You see, when you are continually battling Mental Illnesses you often feel like you have suffered a loss. The loss of the person you once were. More frightening perhaps is when your battle has been so long that you no longer remember who you were before you became ill. I often wonder what would I be feeling right now instead of being overwhelmed by negative thoughts? What would I be thinking right now if food didn’t occupy my mind every minute, every second of every day? Who would I be without these horrible illnesses which are like parasites. Parasites which latch onto me and obliterate any form of happiness, which derail any sense stability and squash any kind of content.

So after a couple of short admissions to the same inpatient unit I had been in before it was suggested that the next step should be supported accommodation. This would allow me to live outside the hospital setting whilst still getting intensive support in a stable environment. In all honesty it was not an easy decision for me to make. I had hoped I would be able to do this on my own and live independently without the need for hospital or supported living. But I had to make a choice and I really did not want to be in and out of hospital any more. So I agreed. In the month leading up to my move things began to improve. I focused all my energy on being well enough to move into supported accommodation and avoid readmission to hospital.

It has been an adjustment. It is hard to get used to the constant footsteps and the murmur of unfamiliar voices. But overall it has been very positive for me. I feel more stable now than I have felt in the last four years and I am really hoping it will continue.  Since moving in I have been on holiday with my family and enjoyed a birthday in Barcelona. I have re-applied for university and I am hoping that they will allow me to start my studies again. I have also been going to a supported work placement for people with Mental Illness or Brain Injury. I really enjoy working there and it is giving me the confidence to go back to work and/or university. So overall things are good, there have been some big changes in my life that I hope will allow me to recover fully and get my life back on track.

Take care guys

xx